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College Football: Wake begins bowl season

By David Ginsburg
Associated Press
WASHINGTON ó The bowl season begins with a rematch, a resurrection and, if Wake Forest has its way, revenge.
The Demon Deacons (7-5) will seek vindication against Navy (8-4) today in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl. Wake Forest was unbeaten and ranked 16th in the country before the Midshipmen forced six turnovers in a 24-17 victory on Sept. 27.
“We played them earlier this year and lost a game we thought we could have won,” Wake Forest senior cornerback Alphonso Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity for us, and we’re going to try to give our fans and the people who support us a treat in D.C.”
It is the first of 34 bowl games over a 20-day span and the first ever at venerable RFK Stadium, which served as home to the Washington Redskins for 36 seasons.
It’s been 12 years since a significant football game was held at the 48-year-old stadium, a concrete doughnut that showcased some of the NFL’s greatest names and most memorable games. There are dozens of prettier stadiums in the United States, but this is the only one built for football in the middle of the nation’s capital.
“I’m more excited about where we’re going than who we’re playing,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “I think it’s a great location. … We feel like Washington is the right place.”
After touring monuments dedicated to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Demon Deacons fans will settle into a stadium where fans once worshipped Sonny Jurgensen, John Riggins and Joe Gibbs.
Demon Deacons-Midshipmen doesn’t have the same ring as Redskins-Cowboys, but there is a bit of history between Wake Forest and Navy. The Demon Deacons have won six of nine in the series, and were 3-0 in the new millennium before Navy ended the run with an upset at Winston-Salem two months ago.
“Every time we watched the film during these last couple of weeks, it makes you want to cringe,” said Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner, who threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. “It’s a good thing that we get another shot at them this year. It’s going to be fun playing them in the bowl, but it’s going to take a lot of efficiency on offense in order to score some points.”
It’s the first time since 1907 that Navy has played an opponent twice in one season. Wake Forest last faced a team twice in 1945, tying South Carolina during the regular season before defeating the Gamecocks in the Gator Bowl.
NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. ó Back in August, there was talk of Fresno State making a BCS run. Four months later, the Bulldogs get the New Mexico Bowl against Colorado State today.
That’s a major step down, but coach Pat Hill said Friday it’s also a big accomplishment because of what has happened since the start of the season.
Fresno State (7-5) lost six starters to injuries, four on defense, and hasn’t had the same 11 offensive players on the field to start a game.
ST. PETERSBURG
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ó Once Memphis climbed from an early-season hole and began creeping toward bowl eligibility, coach Tommy West allowed himself to start thinking about how nice it would be to finish the season with a trip to Florida.
The prospect of spending a few days in gorgeous weather was just part of the appeal of the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl, where the Tigers (6-6) landed today after winning six of nine games following an 0-3 start.
LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS ó BYU is hoping a win against Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl today can set the team on a path that leads elsewhere next year.
Making a fourth straight trip to the bowl, not to mention the brisk winter air and the most snowfall in southern Nevada has seen in 30 years, has the No. 17 Cougars feeling a little too at home this week.
Arizona (7-5) has garnered attention for a spread offense led by quarterback Willie Tuitama and tight end Rob Gronkowski. It is playing its first bowl game in 10 years.

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